"Evaluating Weight Loss Programs"
Fact Sheet 405 Evaluating Weight Loss Programs I ncreasing emphasis on health Myth Versus Truth Weight control “experts” seem to be every- and fitness is motivating where. Although some are well-trained profes- many Americans to try to sionals, others are self-proclaimed and have lose weight, and the weight little or no qualifications. Some of the informa- reduction business has become tion consumers are exposed to is sound, some very profitable. Unfortunately, contains partial truth, and other information is there are many myths about actually false. Nutrition professionals try to provide the controlling weight. This fact public with recommendations based on scien- tific research. Rather than make exaggerated claims of “magical remedies” or “revolution- ary” discoveries, they are cautious in their advice. In contrast, nonscientific “experts” often mix facts with personal views. They are very enthu- siastic about their products and their plans, but they also are often misleading; sometimes they are just out to make money through fraud. Be suspicious of a weight loss plan that suggests any of the following: • Your diet must differ greatly from the rec- ommendations given in the Dietary Guide- lines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid. (See back page.) • The diet plan promotes or emphasizes dietary supplements or herbal products. • The diet plan requires that you purchase special foods that are only available through a weight-loss center. • The diet plan is heavily endorsed through testimonials by athletes, movie stars, and other celebrities. • The diet plan claims to be a cure-all for a number of different medical conditions. • Any of the following phrases are used blood pressure, or if you to describe the diet plan: — “Lose weight overnight” — “Melt away pounds” — “Nothing to it!” — “Miracle diet” or “effortless exercise” — “Secret ingredient” or “magic new method” — “Amazing new discovery” or “breakthrough” — “Natural health” or “nature’s way” — “Special life-giving properties” — “Ancient remedy” or “new European method” — “Revitalize” or “renew” sexual potency. Maintain a healthy skepticism of diet products and programs that make rash claims. Nutrition misinformation in books, magazines, and the Internet floods the market because it is a lucrative business. have been sedentary for a long time, check first with your physician. Who and What to Believe Although there are many types of weight- management programs available, includ- If you want accurate information about ing commercial, clinical, and do-it-yourself law, you go to a lawyer—not to an ath- programs, their long-term success is dismal. lete or a movie star. If you want to go on a Studies show that, on the average, people d i e t , seek out authorities in the field of lose about 10 percent of their body weight nutrition. In nutrition, experts but regain two-thirds of this weight within include nutritionists, one year after ending the program. Within registered dietitians, five years, almost all the weight is gained physicians and nurs- back. es who specialize The Institute of Medicine, a unit of the in weight control, National Academy of Sciences, published and Extension a report that raises questions about the educators who safety and effectiveness of popular weight- are trained to loss programs. The report, “Weighing the guide you with Options: Criteria for Evaluating Weight- food selection and Management Programs,” states that weight- preparation. If loss programs should emphasize long-term you are older weight management rather than short-term than 40 and want to weight loss. The goal should not be sim- start an exercise pro- ply losing weight for appearance’s sake but gram but have medi- rather for improving overall health. Even cal problems such for people who are very heavy, losing as as heart disease, few as ten to fifteen pounds can reduce diabetes or high 2 as well as the percentage of clients for whom this information is available. If this information is not available or consists mainly of testimonials or other anecdotal evidence, be suspicious of the program. Program managers have a responsibility to provide consumers with truthful and unambiguous infor- mation that is neither misleading nor likely to be misinterpreted. • Know the credentials and qualifications of the people running the program. • Ask for detailed information about potential health risks. For example, peo- ple who lose weight rapidly while on a very low-fat diet are at risk for gall blad- der disease. • Be realistic about what you hope to accomplish through the program and be willing to devote the time and effort blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides required to attain your goal. (fats), lower elevated blood pressure, and • Avoid diets of less than 800 calories a decrease abnormally high levels of blood day except under medical supervision. glucose (sugar), which are associated with diabetes. These changes may reduce the risk • Look for a weight-management program of coronary heart disease. Losing weight that includes an exercise program tailored also reduces the risks of osteoarthritis, sleep to you. People who have been sedentary apnea (difficulty in breathing during sleep), should begin to exercise slowly and mod- and certain cancers. It also may have impor- erately, then gradually increase the inten- tant psychological benefits by boosting self- sity and duration of their activities. esteem. The report recommends that consumers Individuals trying to lose weight should pay attention to their overall health while select programs that emphasize a bal- on a weight-management program. Before anced diet, promote the principles of good beginning, they should consult with a phy- nutrition, and encourage physical activity. sician if they have high blood pressure, Research shows that the people who are most diabetes, or other conditions related to obe- successful in keeping weight off are those sity. The report also points out the need for who make exercise a regular, permanent part scientists to learn more about the causes of of their lifestyle. obesity so that more effective weight-man- The Institute of Medicine report offers agement programs can be designed. these guidelines and strategies for selecting a weight-management program that you can stick to: • Find a program that can back its adver- tising and promotional claims with proof that the program works. For example, a program should be able to provide statistics showing the percent- age of clients who have lost weight and not regained it for one and two years, 3 Dietary Rules for Commonsense Weight Control Most Americans live in an environment where high-calorie foods are plentiful, inex- pensive, and heavily advertised, and this has contributed to an epidemic of obesity in this country. Controlling your weight may not be easy, but you can increase your chance of success by following a commonsense approach. Your diet plan should: • Satisfy all your nutritional needs; • Protect you from hunger between meals, give you a sense of well-being, and not make you feel tired; • Be one that, with suitable caloric modi- fications, you can use as a pattern for • Include exercise or physical activities lifetime eating; you enjoy. • Be easy for you to stay on, whether at If you are interested in reading a diet or home or away, without making you feel nutrition book, it is a good idea to check uncomfortable; with your local Extension office to see if the book is a reputable source of information. • Come as close as possible to your per- You can also visit the American Dietetic sonal eating habits and tastes; Association’s “Good Nutrition Reading List” • Use foods readily available from the (under “Nutrition Resources”) at their web- supermarket; and site: http://www.eatright.org. Are You Overweight? Height (without Here are two useful methods to shoes) check your weight status: 6' 6" 6' 5" 1. Using the chart at the right, find 6' 4" the point where your height and 6' 3" weight intersect to see if you are 6' 2" at a healthy weight. The higher 6' 1" weights in the “Healthy Weight” 6' 0" range apply to people with more 5' 11" t ht i gh bone and muscle. ht 5' 10" eig 2. Calculate your Body Mass Index eig 5' 9" We (BMI), which might be a more rw 5' 8" erw accurate way of determining if you lth y 5' 7" ve are overweight than just weighing 5' 6" Ov eO yourself on a scale. 5' 5" Hea re ra t 5' 4" To calculate your BMI, multiply ve 5' 3" your weight in pounds by 705, divide de Se 5' 2" this number by your height in inches, Mo 5' 1" and then divide this result by your 5' 0" height in inches again. A BMI between 4' 11" 21 and 25 indicates a healthy weight. 4' 10" As the BMI increases above 25, the risk 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 of heart disease and diabetes also rises. Pounds (without clothes) Source: Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 1995, pages 23-24. 4 References Brownell, K.D. 1988. The LEARN Program for Sizer, F. and Whitney, E. 1997. Nutrition Weight Control. University of Pennsylvania Concepts and Controversies (7th Ed.). School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Wadsworth Publishing Company, New Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, York. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL: U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Depart- <http://www.usda.gov/fcs/cnpp.htm>. ment of Health and Human Services. 1995. Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Nutrition and Your Health, Dietary Guidelines Administration, National Association of for Americans (4th Ed.). Home and Garden Attorneys General. 1992. The Facts About Bulletin No. 232. U.S. Government Weight Loss Products and Programs. U.S. Printing Office, Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, Washington, U.S. Department of Health and Human D.C. Services. 1996. “Physical Activity Food and Nutrition Board, National and Health: A Report of the Surgeon Academy of Sciences. Weighing the Options: General.” Centers for Disease Control and Criteria for Evaluating Weight-Management Prevention, National Center for Chronic Programs. 1995. National Academy Press, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Washington, DC. Atlanta, GA. National Institutes of Health. 1998. Weight-control Information Network, “Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, National Institute of Diabetes and Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL: and Obesity in Adults.” URL: <http:// <http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/ www.nhlbi.nih.gov/nhlbi/ nutrit.htm>. nhlbi.htm>. Woteki, C.E. and Thomas, P.R. 1992. Eat for Quackwatch. “Your Guide to Health Fraud, Life: The Food and Nutrition Board’s Guide Quackery, and Intelligent Decisions.” URL: to Reducing Your Risk of Chronic Disease. <http://www.quackwatch.com>. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 5 Calories and Activity Level Calorie Values for 10 Minutes of Activity This table shows the amount of calories an individual burns up in 10 minutes doing some common activities. A heavier person (250 pounds) uses up more calories for a given activity than a lighter individual (125 pounds) because the former has more weight to carry around and therefore must work harder. Body Weight 125 175 250 Pounds Pounds Pounds Personal Necessities Sleeping 10 14 20 Sitting (watching TV) 10 14 18 Sitting (talking) 15 21 30 Dressing or washing 26 37 53 Standing 12 16 24 Locomotion Walking downstairs 56 78 111 Walking upstairs 146 202 288 Walking at 2 mph 29 40 58 Walking at 4 mph 52 72 102 Running at 5.5 mph 90 125 178 Running at 7 mph 118 164 232 Running at 12 mph 164 228 326 Cycling at 5.5 mph 42 58 83 Cycling at 13 mph 89 124 178 Housework Making beds 32 46 65 Washing floors 38 53 75 Washing windows 35 48 69 Dusting 22 31 44 Preparing a meal 32 46 65 Shoveling snow 65 89 130 Light gardening 30 42 59 Weeding garden 49 68 98 Mowing grass (power) 34 47 67 Mowing grass (manual) 38 52 74 Sedentary Occupation Sitting writing 15 21 30 Light office work 25 34 50 Standing, light activity 20 28 40 Typing (electric) 19 27 39 continued on next page 6 Calories and Activity Level (continued) Body Weight 125 175 250 Pounds Pounds Pounds Light Work Assembly line 20 28 40 Auto repair 35 48 69 Carpentry 32 44 64 Bricklaying 28 40 57 Farming chores 32 44 64 House painting 29 40 58 Heavy Work Pick & shovel work 56 78 110 Chopping wood 60 84 121 Dragging logs 158 220 315 Drilling coal 79 111 159 Recreation Badminton 43 65 94 Baseball 39 54 78 Basketball 58 82 117 Bowling (nonstop) 56 78 111 Canoeing (4 mph) 90 128 182 Dancing (moderate) 35 48 69 Dancing (vigorous) 48 66 94 Football 69 96 137 Golfing 33 48 68 Horseback riding 56 75 112 Ping-pong 32 45 64 Racquetball 75 104 144 Skiing (alpine) 80 112 160 Skiing (water) 60 88 130 Skiing (cross country) 98 138 194 Squash 75 104 144 Swimming (backstroke) 32 45 64 Swimming (crawl) 40 56 80 Tennis 56 89 115 Volleyball 43 65 94 Source: Brownell, K.D. 1988. The LEARN Program for Weight Control. 7 Dietary Guidelines for Americans • Eat a variety of foods • Balance the food you eat with physical activity—maintain or improve your weight • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol • Choose a diet moderate in sugars • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation From: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1995. “Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” 4th ed. Food Guide Pyramid To lose weight, choose the lower number of servings in each food group. Fats, Oils, and Sweets USE SPARINGLY Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Group Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group 2-3 SERVINGS Vegetable Group Fruit Group 3-5 SERVINGS 2-4 SERVINGS Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group 6-11 SERVINGS The Food Guide Pyramid. 1992. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Evaluating Weight Loss Programs by Mark A. Kantor Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Department of Nutrition and Food Science University of Maryland, College Park Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Maryland, College Park, and local governments. Thomas A. Fretz, Director of Maryland Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland. The University of Maryland is equal opportunity. The University’s policies, programs, and activities are in conformance with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, and disability. Inquiries regarding compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Educational Amendments; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; or related legal requirements should be directed to the Director of Personnel/Human Relations, Office of the Dean, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Symons Hall, College Park, MD 20742. P2000